On a morning walk along the beach near my home, I watched an eagle hurtle down to the water, talons extended, wings braking its descent with aileron-like precision. I couldn’t see its target, but it skidded against the waves, missed whatever it was after, flapped its massive wings and soared until it was barely a speck against the milky winter sky. Over and over it kamikazed into the bay, then swerved and lofted back toward the sun.
So much power and magnificence in service to the hunt for provision.
I too work — to provide for myself, to support my family, and to serve my vision of a world that nurtures all of life. My pocket calculator yields this astonishment: I’ve worked (almost) every day for the past fifty years. That’s 18,250 days, more or less!
There were, of course, the study years, when I was at university full-time and worked part-time. Counterbalanced by the years when I was raising both my business and my young family, and worked seven days a week, until I made the decision never to work on weekends again.
A long working life isn’t an anomaly. By the time you’re in your late sixties, as I am, you will likely have worked for half a century or more. If you love your work, if it is both your art and your livelihood, you may well continue to play happily with it until you’re in your eighties or older!
Your relationship with your work is likely to be the one of the most intimate, abiding relationships of your life.
As you consider what career, art, business, or vocation you wish to dedicate yourself to, think about it in terms of longevity. How do you cultivate the love and devotion that any life-long relationship needs in order to thrive? How do you keep the relationship with your work fresh, exciting, joyful, evergreen?
Whether you’re just testing the job market, have recently launched a business, or have worked for several years in fields that perhaps no longer feel fulfilling or meaningful, take the time to explore the rich possibilities available to you today.
There are so many ways to engage in right livelihood, once you strip away the social and cultural programming that attempts to dictate who you are, what you can and cannot do, what your place is, in the social order, and so on. These are simply belief systems masquerading as facts.
In the early stages of your quest, follow your curiosity; follow your desire; follow the truth of your heart wherever it leads you.
Explore different kinds of work and work environments. If you love animals, volunteer at a shelter or at your local veterinarian clinic. If you feel an affinity for the elderly, lend a hand at a nursing home or long-term care facility. If you want to write, pitch a story to your local newspaper, take a creative writing class, read widely with an eye to discerning how different writers approach aspects of craft.
Talk to people who are doing the things you think you might want to do. Your Aunt Sally, who owns a software consultancy. Your best friend’s brother, who handles the lighting for a theatre company. Your yoga teacher or rock climbing instructor or massage therapist. Ask if they would be willing to let you shadow them for a day. If they are generous enough to invite you along, show your appreciation by making yourself useful. Be the guest who gives as well as receives.
Other ways to explore…
If you can afford it, travel. Have adventures. Meet people who live, worship, think, create, play and love differently than you do. Visit areas of your hometown where you normally never go. Explore countries where you don’t speak the native language. Be curious, attentive; stay receptive to new ideas, new ways of being in the world. Listen more than you speak.
Stay home. Explore your inner world. Begin with your particular desires. What fills you with joy? What do you delight in doing so much that you’d do it even if you knew you might never make a living at it? What would you do even if no-one ever knew you were doing it?
You may be thinking: I have a family to support; I don’t have the luxury of exploring different possibilities, travelling, volunteering — I need to make a living.
I get it. Without a foundation of safety and provision, it’s difficult to see past the high walls of necessity to the wide-open horizons that hold creative possibilities that are aligned with your gifts, your interests and your true desires.
So, take a breath, pick up your pen, and begin by exploring this truth: List all the ways in which you are provided for. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the earth that supports and sustains you. Your beloveds. The miracle of your body; the miracle of your life. You cannot earn these, they are gifts of grace. The Deva of Provision offers them to you freely.
You are provided for in ways you cannot begin to imagine. And yet, being human, we forget. We forget that provision is a soul quality, one that resides in our DNA. So, you find yourself fretting, worrying…
Meet your doubts, worries and fears with kindness, patience, and tenderness. Be willing to listen to, comfort and cherish those parts of you that are afraid of the unknown, afraid of taking risks, afraid of failing and equally afraid of succeeding.
Often, these doubts and fears are held by parts of you that are younger, and far more vulnerable than you are now. These inner selves, who hold every experience you’ve ever had and every experience you might have in the future, may be hanging onto stories and beliefs that arose out of past experiences. Experiences that no longer exist, but that continue to shape your behavior and choices.
Your inner selves aren’t just worried and scared. There are also parts of you that are brave, adventurous, at home with the unknown, willing to head for the horizon without knowing what you’ll encounter there.
Call on these aspects of yourself; ask them to take the lead in this process of exploration and discovery. Remind yourself that you have done hard, scary things many times in your life, and you’ve made it through to where you are now.
The miracle isn’t in the achievement, it’s in the You that you become when you choose to be brave, when you choose to act in the face of uncertainty.
Remind yourself, too, of all the ways in which you were supported, in the past, when you chose the road less travelled, when you traversed rocky ground. Your soul has its own allies, some of whom you may not yet know. Helpers are everywhere; open your eyes, soften your heart, ask for what you need, and receive the support that lives in such abundance, all around you.
Remind yourself why you chose to be here in the first place; remind yourself of your love for this earth, your love for humanity, nature, art, language, beauty in all its forms…
Then, ask yourself:
What can you devote yourself to, learn, research, practice, grow with, grow into, that has the potential to become both livelihood and vocation? What holds the kind of beauty, depth and complexity that never grows old? What impels you now, and offers wide horizons that you can explore throughout your lifetime?
My own body of work has emerged from a deep and holy desire to serve soul, to serve wholeness, to learn, research and share the art of being divinely human. I do this by mining the riches at the nexus of the world’s need, the things I’m good at, and the things I love: Writing. Soul alchemy. Transformation. Consciousness. Education. Cultural development and evolution. Justice. Equity.
It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to learn, grow, practice, play, create and serve in this way. This path has brought me profound gifts and equally profound challenges. But, I can honestly say I’m never bored. There’s always more to learn, more to discover; the work continues to take new forms that surprise and delight even as they serve and bless my world.
Stand at the intersection where your own desires, gifts, and loves encounter the needs of your community and your world. What’s calling you now? How will you answer the call?